On Thursday, Dec. 16, the Town Board will hold a public hearing on whether or not to forward a proposed Local Law changing the terms of the supervisor and clerk from two years to four.
We strongly support the move.
At first glance, giving any politician more time in office without answering to voters is never a good idea. And, in most surrounding towns and most towns around the state, supervisors serve a two-year term.
But, if you look at the dynamics involved, bumping the term to four years makes sense in a town like Colonie — which has some 84,000 people living on more than 57 square miles.
Safe to say, running a campaign is not a cheap or easy endeavor.
Supervisor-elect Peter Crummey raised nearly $160,000 in his victory over Kelly Mateja earlier this year. That money didn’t just fall from the tree. It took Crummey time and energy to raise that kind of cash, which he was able to do since he retired his judicial robes to run for supervisor. We are also sure he knocked on thousands of doors and attended scores of community events — the types of things that win a local election with only so many hours in a day.
Crummey ran a extremely successful campaign as a private citizen, and getting elected was his full time job for 10 or so months.
That will not be the case should he opt to run for a second term in 2023. He will be a sitting supervisor and in a town like Colonie that is a 24/7/365 job. The rationale for two-year terms in towns is they just aren’t as busy or as populated or as diverse as most cities across the state. That simply isn’t true in Colonie and the town is nearly the size of Albany and far larger than Schenectady and Troy, where elected mayors serve four-year terms.
Should Crummey want to run again in 2023, he will have to split governing and politics and while the latter will always get in the way of the former, it doesn’t and shouldn’t have to happen every two years in Colonie.
Making it all the more demanding is a 2019 change to the statewide political calendar moving the primary from September to June with petitions hitting the streets at the beginning of March. So, for example, Crummey will be sworn in on Jan. 1, 2022. Should a Republican choose to primary him for the desirable, top spot in town, it will happen just 18 months later with petitioning starting just 14 months after taking the oath.
A primary might not be as intense or expensive as a general election in a place like Colonie, but it still requires a campaign that could last months and cost thousands of dollars.
In a very real sense, Crummey could have to start actively campaigning again one year after taking the oath of office. That is just not enough time to accomplish much of anything and force anyone in office interested in holding onto their job to, if not put politics above governing, at least look at them equally.
The town clerk, by the definition of the position, does not face the same potential conflicts of interest as a supervisor but the same political calendar applies. The clerk’s office is the nuts and bolts of any municipality, and a four-year term will provide greater continuity in the workings of the department and help further remove politics from what is an apolitical office.
The process the town is taking to implement the change, too, is worthy of our endorsement.
The Town Board will host a public hearing and, unless there is total, overwhelming opposition voiced by more than a few residents, it will go to a referendum, as per state law, during the next general election.
It’s hard to argue with anything that will ultimately be decided by the voters at the ballot box.
If passed by the voters in 2022, the new term will not apply until the next supervisor is elected in 2023 so it will not directly benefit anyone in office right now or anyone elected to office right now. It will only impact those who will run for office in 2023.
It short, we urge the Town Board to listen at the public hearing, and then forward the measure to let the voters.
A new union
A four-year term will also provide at least two more years of job security to the appointed people who play an integral role of any administration. It will make those positions more desirable, and easier to attract quality people.
The Town Board, at its last meeting, tabled a resolution “demanding” a union by those same appointed people.
Good for the Town Board, and we urge the body to vigorously fight that inane “demand.”
There is an old adage that applies to elections: “to the victor go the spoils.”
Anyone duly elected has won the right to appoint who he or she wants to certain positions. Of course, there is the danger of getting political hacks in positions they are not qualified for — like the SUNY chancellor, for example — but that reflects on the elected official, and if the job is not getting done to the voter’s satisfaction, everyone could be out of a job.
An elected official has earned the confidence of the voters to take the town in a certain direction and will, of course, need a staff to accomplish that mission.
It is, or can be, a difficult mission especially in these times of COVID and economic uncertainty. There is no reason to make it any more challenging by handcuffing a duly elected official with employees who may be more loyal to someone else or some other political party or someone who the elected just doesn’t want for whatever reason.
The employees who accomplish the day-to-day work of any town deserve civil service and/or union protection. Anyone setting policy, such as department heads, have always and should always serve at the pleasure of the supervisor. They get paid a decent salary, and took the appointment knowing the term of employment more than likely coincides with that of the supervisor.
It is not right, or fair, to change the rules while the game is still being played.